Flexible working - right or privilege?
I’m sitting here on my decking, tapping away at my laptop with the sun shining and the birds chirping away so it’s fair to say, I’m an advocate of flexible working. And it seems I’m not alone. A 2018 Deloitte survey suggests that 75% of employees want to be measured on outputs, not time worked. A further 60% wanted to work more flexibly. So it appears that there Is an overwhelming demand for flexibility and yet the same survey said that a quarter of UK employees still work with no flexibility. So why the disconnect?
The Legal Position
At present, UK law allows for anyone to make a flexible working request after 26 weeks service. Businesses are required to formally review the proposal and should only refuse it where there is a sound business reason to do so. Often the reason given is the ability to meet customer needs or that the demands of the role are such that they can only be delivered by a full time employee who is based on site. Technological advances have made it possible for many to work remotely for many so is UK Plc being genuine in its assertion that more roles can not be performed flexibly?
It's not been done before
One of the main reasons why flexible working requests aren’t accepted is because of precedent. Perhaps you’ve only ever had a full time employee in the role before? Or maybe you have had an employee in the past who did absolutely nothing on their day ‘working from home’ and now you don’t trust anyone else to do so. Both of these are genuine concerns and need to be answered before accepting a request. But as it has been said before, if you don’t trust the employee to work from home, why did you hire them in the first place? If they need your steely gaze in order to perform, are they the right person for the role?
Try it, you might like it
The only true way to decide whether flexible working is an option is by giving it a go. A trial period of fixed duration where either party can call time on the arrangement is always advisable. Not only will this give you the security that it’s not forever, but it also gives both parties the opportunity to iron out the glitches and hone the agreement. And ultimately, if it isn’t working, the flexible working agreement can be terminated during the trial.
But won’t everyone want it?
Accepting one request does not open the floodgates. It would be ridiculous if you had to accept all requests to work at home on Friday just because you have accepted one. Each request should be treated on its own merits but what you might find is that once you’ve broken the ice, there are more roles out there that could be performed equally as well but in a different way. Remember, you can decline requests if there is a genuine business reason where it wouldn’t work. There aren’t may warehousing roles that can be done on the kitchen table.
Engaging at recruiting.
Flexicruiting, or engaging in discussions about flexible working at the recruitment stage, is still in its infancy. Some companies have gone further than the law requires and are offering flexible working to new starters, but these are still relatively few and far between. A technology advances, I would expect that more will adapt their processes to accommodate requests earlier on so that they can tap into a broader talent pool. This is where flexible working becomes a right or a privilege. Do you need to be able to trust your employee to deliver before you agree to flexibility or is it something that is a given until that person breaches your trust and therefore the privilege is removed?
Here to stay
One thing that is sure is that Flexible working in all its guises is here to stay. A Deloitte and Timewise study found that 73% of employees worked with some sort of flexibility in 2019. Conversely only 6% worked the traditional desk based 9-5. The question is, can you afford to be one of those organisations that holds on to traditional working patterns? Or will this hamper your ability to recruit the talent you need? I’d love to hear your views on how Flexible Working has worked, or not, for you.
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